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Apollon, inspired by Capitals, pursuing NHL dream

July 18, 2023

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles NAHL player Divyne Apollon II, whose teammates and the Washington Capitals rallied around after he endured racist taunts at a youth hockey tournament in December 2018. Undaunted, he's chasing his hockey dream today as a forward for the Amarillo Wranglers of the North American Hockey League.

Divyne Apollon II can't believe it has been nearly five years since he experienced the lowest low in his young hockey career that resulted in one of the highest of highs.

Apollon II was a 13-year-old defenseman playing for the suburban Washington, D.C., Metro Maple Leafs when he was subjected to racist taunts during a game against a team from Pennsylvania at a youth hockey tournament on Dec. 29, 2018, which led to a fight and his suspension from the tournament.

His teammates rallied around him. So did Washington Capitals players, who invited Apollon II and the Metro Maple Leafs to a game against the St. Louis Blues at Capital One Arena on Jan. 14, 2019, and to meet the players in the locker room afterward.

"I mean, that motivated me to want to keep doing what I'm doing," he said earlier this month. "It just made me feel like I wanted to work harder."

Apollon II is now an 18-year-old forward with the Amarillo Wranglers of the North American Hockey League, chasing his hockey dream.

The Seat Pleasant, Maryland, native hopes playing in the junior league will lead to an NCAA Division I hockey scholarship, preferably to Arizona State University, and someday a chance to play professionally.

"It's a lot of fun here, the atmosphere and the guys I'm playing with," he said.

Apollon II (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) has become a fan favorite in the city near the Texas Panhandle because of a style of play reminiscent of forward Tom Wilson, his favorite Capitals player.

He had one assist in 25 games for Amarillo last season with 111 penalty minutes, playing on a checking line.

"He plays the game the right way," Amarillo owner and president Austin Sutter said. "He plays it honest. He plays it physical. He doesn't cut corners. He works hard. He's a great teammate. And our fans love that, they can see that."

Apollon II said he expects to score more this season. He is spending the summer in Boston, on the ice three or four times a week for sessions with Glen Tucker, a shooting instructor known as "Dr. Shot."

Tucker has worked a host of NHL players, including Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak and center Patrice Bergeron, Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel and Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares, as well as former players Zdeno Chara, Jarome Iginla and P.K. Subban.

"The goal is to keep getting better," Apollon II said.

Divyne Apollon Sr. said his son's determination to succeed is a testament to the gestures of goodwill by the Capitals and others and the power of allyship after the racist episode in 2018.

"I think it was a great boost," Apollon Sr. said. "I was great to see people supporting him and players that look like him in the (NHL) inspiring him."

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